5 techniques for thinking outside of the box

During these long dog days of summer, sometimes it can be difficult to keep the creative juices flowing, come on; we have all been there. Trying to keep at the top of your creative game throughout the day can be a bit tricky sometimes; whether you’re trying to come up with a cutting tagline, or a new brand marketing strategy, ensuring that your always creatively thinking will give you the edge to tackle any challenge that comes your way.


Sometimes ideas will appear to you that are just outside-of-the-box. Similarly, sometimes to find these out of the box ideas you need to think outside-of-the-box. If you’re finding that your creative juices are running a bit dry, then why not try out these five outside-the-box ways to harness your creative thinking.

1. Leave the creative block in the quiet office

It may sound strange, but creativity flows best in environments filled with a moderate amount of distraction. When you shut the door to block out distractions, you may also be shutting the door on your most creative notions. Unlike meticulous detail-driven, analytical thinking, creative thoughts cannot propagate in quiet, ‘un-living environments’.

Recent University of Illinois research has demonstrated that a moderate level of ambient noise influences the creation of ‘process disfluency’: basically, distractions disrupt the steady flow of thought. This leads to broader, more abstract creative thinking. That is why it is often so difficult to start getting the ball rolling on that blank page that is in front of you on the office table. Creativity thrives in your distractions.

Research has also found that a moderate level of noise (around 70 decibels: around the same level of a radio or TV in the background) helps to induce creative thinking, whereas lower or higher levels have been found to have no impact on creativity whatsoever. So, the next time your brain is in a knot trying to conjure the next important creative solution, why not try moving your work out of the quiet office and into a more distracting environment. Try taking your work to a café or even going further afield and spending some time working in the nearest square or public park.

2. Have faith in your bolder ideas

It is very easy to be one’s worst critic. Building up confidence to have faith in your creative decisions is something that takes many cases of trial and error and subsequently many knocks from your peers, your bosses and your clients. Of course, when it comes to our bolder ideas our own inner critic runs their mouth off tenfold. As a result it can be extremely difficult to come up with truly unique creative solutions when we’re shooting down our own ideas.

Your ability to judge your own creative work negatively will tighten your mind and put a block in the creative pipes, so to speak. This will be absolutely lethal to any creative solution that you conjure; somehow you need to shut the inner judge up.

One way to beat this is a practice called automatic prose. This is an idea adopted by many of the greatest writers of the century (beat poet and author of On the Road , Jack Kerouac for example) and can often lead to hugely prolific creative thinking. As you are thinking of ideas, get in the habit of automatically writing them down as you go along; ‘good’ or ‘bad’. What it will result in is a pure and unadulterated brainstorm of ideasat your disposal.

3. Experiment with your surroundings

If leaving the office to work is a bit too much of a jump for you, then why not try and experiment in your normal work surroundings? There are many ways in which you can do that. Music is one area that people find often induces their creative thinking. Sometimes listening to music that is purely instrumental helps get the ideas flowing and helps you to maintain concentration more than music with words. In many cases, words can clutter the brain and lead to a negative sort of reaction; on the other hand instrumental based music can pique the brain to conjure up creative thoughts.

Remember our blog, The art of practical colour theory ? If so then you will know all about how different colours can elicit different moods. While colours have different effects on people based completely on subjective relation, it has been shown that the colour blue leads to more relaxed and creative thinking; whereas shades of reds helps to boost the processes of more detail- demanding tasks, like analyses or editing.

4. Allow yourself time to think creatively

If your entire work day involves just getting work done, then your not allowing yourself anytime to creatively think. This leaves you no time to experiment and therefore not allowing yourself to embark on creating ideas outside-of-the-box.

This is a method that many successful creative and business types have praised as a golden rule of success. Business magnate Warren Buffett famously said that you should ‘sell’ yourself an hour of your own time every day, ‘On the other hand’ you can dedicate the time to improving yourself. In the short term, you’re better off with the dopamine laced rush of email and twitter while multitasking. In the long term, the investment in learning something new and improving yourself goes further and Google let their employees make use of 20% of their work weeks pursuing their own special projects.

Considering the success of these two examples you may want to try bringing it your studio. By carving out some free time (it may only be 15 minutes) you give yourself some time to think individually outside of the mass of work; therefore freeing up your creative channels to come up with your best ideas.

5. Leave your comfort zone behind

Brian Eno once said, ‘people tend to play in their comfort zone’, so the best things are achieved in a state of surprise, actually. If there is anyone who knows all about breaking out of the comfort zone and defying the norm it is Eno and he is completely right. By leaving behind your comfort zone you open yourself to surprise and new experience. New experience subsequently leads to discover and influence, and in Brian Eno’s case it led to him redefining the way that electronic music was created and produced.


Of course, working in an environment that you are used to seeing every day hardly lends itself to leaving the comfort zone behind, but there are small things that you can implement as a means of mixing the norm up a bit. Try taking your lunch outside of the office or the canteen, or even a different bench; try reading something new every day, or eating with a different colleague. You never know where that next hit of inspiration will come from, and sometimes you need to go looking for it.